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When is the best time to buy plane tickets?

Key takeaways

  • Getting a good deal on airline tickets depends on when and where you want to travel and how far in advance you book.
  • Price-monitoring tools can help automate your search for a cheap flight and might be more efficient than searching for plane tickets on a particular day of the week.
  • Some airlines might reimburse you if you book your ticket and then notice the price has dropped since you paid.

For many travelers, figuring out the best time to buy flights and landing the lowest price is a time-consuming game of chance. But with a little planning and flexibility, it's possible to get cheap airfare.

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When is the best day to book a flight?

If you need a plane ticket, you might get a good deal by purchasing on a specific day. Which day? Depends on where you get your info. For instance, according to Expedia's 2024 Travel Hacks Report, Sunday is the best day of the week to find cheaper flights—and has been for the past 5 years.1 Booking on a Sunday (compared to Friday) tends to save travelers an average of up to 13%.

There might be another good day to book airfare. "The best time to purchase airline tickets is generally on Tuesdays around 3:00 p.m. ET," says Justin Albertynas, CEO of Ratepunk, a browser extension that compares hotel price offerings, and co-founder of AirGuru, a flight comparison tool. Tuesday afternoon could be a deal sweet spot, Albertynas says, because many airlines might release new fare sales on Monday evenings. By Tuesday afternoon, other airlines might attempt to match the lower prices to compete.

You could let the above be your guide about when to book flights. But you might have better price luck thinking less about a day of the week to search for tickets and more about how far in advance of your trip to book. 

When is the best time to buy plane tickets?

Getting a well-priced airline ticket often depends on how far in advance you book, the time of year you travel, and where you plan to visit. There's different guidance around when to buy plane tickets for traveling domestically vs. internationally.

The best time to book an international flight

For international flights, consider aiming to buy about 2 months in advance but no more than 4 months ahead. According to the Expedia report, travelers who booked international airfare in this window saved about 10% compared to those who bought tickets at other times.2

But CheapAir, which analyzed 917 million fares for its 2024 Annual Airfare Study, found it's cheapest to book flights to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America in the 1- to 3-month range, depending on your exact destination. Flights across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean are a different story. They tend to be cheapest 8 to 11 months in advance of travel dates, with the exception of Asia, which offered the lowest airfares between 1 and 4 months ahead of your fly-out date.3

The best time to book a domestic flight

It's a little harder to pinpoint the ideal booking range for traveling within the US. Albertynas suggests searching for tickets between 3 weeks and 3 months in advance of your trip. That's when airlines tend to release a limited number of discounted seats. Expedia found that booking 28 days ahead of your departure date saves about 24% over booking at the last minute.4

Flights booked within 2 weeks of the travel date often cost more because you're likely to be competing with business travelers for whatever hasn't been scooped up. Keep in mind that the season you fly affects your best buying window too. According to CheapAir, here's when to find the lowest fares by travel season.

  • Spring: 44 days in advance
  • Summer: 35 days in advance
  • Fall: 55 days in advance
  • Winter: 42 days in advance (but holiday travel dates might call for earlier booking)5

If you know your travel plans well in advance, you could try to book when some deals might be offered, which is often when tickets are initially released. That happens about 11 months ahead of the departure date, says Albertynas.

Ways to save the next time you buy flights

  • Embrace flexibility about when you fly. If a low-cost ticket is your ultimate goal, keep an open mind about your travel dates. Be flexible about the month you visit—January is generally the cheapest month to fly, with February being next best, according to CheapAir. As for the days of the week you fly, midweek departures are generally lower priced than high-traffic weekend days, including Friday. In the CheapAir study, they revealed that flying on Wednesday saves you about $100 compared to flying on Sunday.6 That means you could save if you plan a week of PTO for, say, Wednesday to Wednesday rather than Monday to Friday. You also could save if you fly when travelers are generally less jazzed about getting on a plane—very early in the day and late at night.
  • Embrace flexibility about how you fly. Unless you're aiming to use or earn miles or other perks from a particular airline, it might be worth it to be open about which carrier you choose. If you live near multiple airports, you also could spend less on airfare by considering flights to and from all of those airports instead of only the most convenient one. Just make sure to factor in costs for getting to and from the airport—a flight is only a good deal if you don't have to spend much more on a cab or where it's more expensive to park your own car.
  • Use price-monitoring tools. Let automated price trackers do the hard work for you. Many websites source ticket costs from multiple airlines and allow you to set alerts for low fares to and from specific locations and even for specific dates. Just make sure you open the emails flagging price moves as soon as they come in so you can snag a deal when it hits.
  • Keep an eye on prices after you buy. Many airlines have policies honoring cheaper fares you might find shortly after purchasing. Before you book with a particular airline, investigate any rules they have about price adjustments. You might be able to get a refund or a travel credit if you come across a cheaper ticket and report it through the proper channels. Look into what price protection your credit card might offer too.

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More to explore

1. Expedia Team, "New Report Finds Air Travel More Stressful Than Going to the Dentist: Expedia Releases 2024 Air Travel Hacks Report for Smoother Travel," Expedia, September 27, 2023. 2. Expedia Team, "Expedia's 2024 Air Travel Hacks Report," Expedia, September 27, 2023. 3. "The Best Time to Buy Cheap International Flights," CheapAir, February 23, 2024. 4. Expedia Team, "Expedia's 2024 Air Travel Hacks Report," Expedia, September 27, 2023. 5. "The Best Time to Buy Cheap Flights," CheapAir, January 30, 2024. 6. "The Best Time to Buy Cheap Flights," CheapAir, January 30, 2024.

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The views expressed are as of the date indicated and may change based on market or other conditions. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions provided are those of the speaker or author, as applicable, and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments. The third-party contributors are not employed by Fidelity, and have not received compensation for their services.

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